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Friday, 11 March 2016

Confirmation, if confirmation were needed

Borussia Dortmund 3 Tottenham Hotspur 0

Confirmation, if confirmation were needed

Well, Borussia Dortmund gave us a lesson on a night when two away sides grabbed draws, the rest lost. There were a few things we already knew that were reinforced, which helps to clear heads and confirm the way forward.

Borussia Dortmund are regularly in the Champions League and the gap in class between that and UEFA Europa League regulars was clear. We knew we were not the finished article and this game confirmed it. We didn't have out strongest side out, but this is a squad sport now and the players who come in have to be up to the mark.

Mauricio Pochettino threw a few surprises. Now I don't know the fitness of the squad, but I do know that we are virtually certain to be in the Champions league next season without having to win the Europa League, a route many suggested we would have to take to qualify. Did that have a bearing on selection? Was the game used for the coaching staff to see the reaction of Onomah and Carroll?

With the side selected I assume that Pochettino was hoping for a draw or would have settled for a 1-0 loss, although the side arguably didn't have the qualities required for that. The first goal was from the right where Josh Onomah was receiving an education. It will do his development a power of good, playing against quality opposition, but there can be no doubt it was a gamble. 

Did it fail, well yes on the night it did, but there is a bigger picture with him. The club are looking to prepare him for next season and a larger role so we perhaps won't see any results until then. If we do then the night will have been a success, it depends on what terms you are using to judge, for him and, therefore the club, it has to be through the eyes of development.

Concentration comes with experience and switching off when defending or deciding the right things to do is arrived at by trial and error. The coaching staff can now sit down with a video of the game, pull the good points and those that require working on. He has had a feel of 81,000 and quality opposition.

It was in defensive midfield where the major shock for me occurred. Ryan Mason and Tom Carroll. I would have had no qualms about using Ryan Mason in midfield, it gives others a rest. You know from him you'll get tireless work and he made crucial blocks at times.

I have questioned Tom Carroll mentally before. Anyone can play when everything is going right, when it is going wrong you see how a player reacts, that tells you more about him that at any other time. Carroll was out of his depth, he went to pieces and he couldn't shield the back four. Can he improve, yes of course, but the mental weakness he has displayed before came back to haunt us.

He is not a good enough defensive midfielder at the top level. Early in the season, Dele Alli took his chance, he didn't need a run of games to shine. Last season Harry Kane and Ryan Mason took their chances immediately. Tom Carroll didn't have that mental strength and it rang alarm bells with me.

Wanting a player to achieve, having a favourite is one thing, but if you have the mental strength and the motivation you have to find a way to make your mark. That doesn't mean you have to do something brilliant, it may mean just doing your job is a most efficient manner with no fuss.

To me Carroll is a showboater when he passes, he has to have a body shape that makes the pass look great. It is an exaggeration but the outcome of the pass seems a secondary consideration to the aesthetic of playing it.

Now I'm not pinning the blame for defeat on Tom Carroll, but for me, the game confirmed what I though last summer, he isn't good enough for where we want to be. There is always that weakness and we know in pressure situations the mind unless trained, slips into default mode. For Carroll, that is a ruffled state, uncertain and thus prone to mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, but Carroll made far too many to be acceptable. Mentally he couldn't make the right decisions.

During the summer, we will need an upgrade.

If you do not have much of a shield in front of the back four then you are placing them under severe pressure and then instead of playing a system, you are fire fighting. Defenders have no choice but to be pulled out of position. Having Onomah and Carroll gave Dortmund an opportunity they exploited. Defenders were dropping back to keep players onside. That is a sign of worry, a lack of confidence in those in front of you.

What we have to do with that game is analyse it and determine where we need to improve the quality of the squad. For me the game confirmed Tom Carroll tops the list of players to let go, he has the skill but he doesn't have the mental makeup to play at the top. That confirmation and the development for Onomah were the two main positives to take from the game.


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